CLAIREMONT — Jack Renfroe moved his family to Kent County in 1900 and traded a span of mules plus $100 in cash for a section (640 acres) of land. The property was located on what later became known as Renfroe Flat. They lived in an existing box house.
Jack Renfroe was born April 22, 1856 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His father and two brothers were in the Civil War and both brothers were killed. When Jack’s father returned to the family plantation, carpetbaggers had taken over. Looters killed Jack’s grandfather while he was sleeping. His grandmother and children fled to Texas.
They left a large plantation behind in Mississippi. No claim was ever made by any Renfroe to regain the plantation, according to family records.
Jack Renfroe and Sarah Ellender Johnston were married February 25, 1875. Sarah was born June 4, 1859 in Delta County, Texas. They had ten children but only seven survived childhood: Andrew Thomas Renfroe (1878-1957), George Washington Renfroe, Lydia Renfroe Scot, John Ervin Renfroe (1888-1968), Matt Poole Renfroe (1890-1985), Lona Renfroe Bennett (1893-1960), and Charles Elmer Renfroe (1900-1985).
Prior to arriving in Kent County, Jack and Sarah lived in the Indian Territory for twelve years where they leased land from the Indians. From there they lived in Roswell, New Mexico followed by a move to Scurry County, Texas.
When the Renfroe’s settled on their property near Clairemont, they were limited by what supplies were available. So, trips were made to Stamford twice a year and wagon loads of necessities were brought back. The trip took six or seven days.
Kent County was created in 1876 and organized in 1892 from Young and Bexar Territories. It was named after Andrew Kent who died at the Alamo in 1836. Clairemont was the original Kent County seat. There were two attempts to move it before voters finally gave the okay and Jayton was named the county seat.
Jack Renfroe and several neighbors built the first school house, a 20 by 30 foot building, in the area on Renfroe land. School was held from three to six months.
The Renfroe children remembered several “rough and tough” boys attending the school with the goal of making the teacher’s lives miserable by bluffing them into leaving. “They were successful until Miss Lula Grisham was hired. She stood her ground and could not be bluffed.”
According to the Kent County History Book, early settlers raised lots of corn for a regular diet of cornbread. The Renfroe’s took their corn to a mill at Clipper for grinding.
Clipper was three miles southwest of present day Jayton in east central Kent County. Clipper flourished until Jayton was established in 1907 on the Stamford and Northwestern Railway. After that, Clipper soon was abandoned.
Matt Renfroe was just a young boy but remembered the chore of taking corn to Clipper as his responsibility. He tied the grain sack on his saddle. After the grinding, the sack of meal would be tied back on his saddle.
“The miller liked to pull pranks and would look to see if the gin yard gate was open, and if it was he would give a blast of the gin whistle,” Matt said. “The horse would bolt. Scared half out of my wits, I would hang on the saddle horn for dear life.”
Jack Renfroe brought the first pack of Walker hounds to Kent County. Later, a neighbor, Berry Pursley, purchased a pack of hounds. The two men loved to hunt with their hounds. In 1903 they jumped a whitetail deer hiding in shinnery between Clipper and present day Jayton. They chased the deer all day and finally came up to him at a pool of rain water. Jack shot the deer which had a beautiful rack of 19 points still in the velvet.
Ervin Renfroe shot the last Lobo wolf seen in Kent County, according to Kent County historians. Thanks to the hounds, he tracked the big wolf to a den where he discovered a family of wolves.
According to The Handbook of Texas Online, wildlife numbers – especially coyotes and wolves – were at their peak in those days. The Lobo wolves were larger than the coyote and preyed upon young calves and were known to kill yearlings as large as 250 pounds.
In 1907, the Renfroe’s moved to Jayton. For the first time the children attended a nine- month school year. Among the teachers was Grover Bennett who later married Lona Renfroe. Matt Renfroe was in the first graduating class at Jayton High School in 1919. He was the only living member of the class in 1982. Matt was 94 when he died April 7, 1985.
The Haines place was purchased by the Renfroe’s in 1916. Matt and his brother Elmer drove a team of mules to Rotan to close the deal. They lived there a few years before moving to Dickens County.
Jack Renfroe was 87 when he died October 11, 1943. Sarah Johnston Renfroe died June 17, 1939. They are both buried at Brady. — email@example.com